To the people of rural Britain, hares are deeply beloved, perhaps above all other animals. They thrive in abundance in imagery but can be maddeningly elusive in reality. In our stories – ancient and modern – they are magical, uncanny and illogical beings which commune with the moon, vanish at will, and lose their minds when spring arrives. Yet despite the breadth and depth of its legends, the brown hare of the lowlands is a relative newcomer to our islands, and our 'real' ancient hare isthe mountain hare of the most unforgiving high mountainsides.
Hares of myth have godly powers, but real, earthbound hares walk a dangerous line – they are small animals with many predators but have no burrow or tunnel to shelter them from danger. They survive by a combination of two skills honed to unimaginable extremes – hiding in plain sight, and running faster than anything and anyone. The need to excel as hiders and runners ultimately directs every aspect of hare biology and behaviour, as well as inspiring our own wild ideas about hare-kind.
This book explores hares as they are and as we imagine them, and the long and often bloody history of our association with these enigmatic animals. Elegant studies of molecular biology and biomechanical physics help us understand how hares are put together, while centuries of game estate records reveal how humans have commodified and exploited them. But it is ultimately the moments spent in the company of wild hares that allow us to bring together myth and reality to celebrate the magic of the living animal.
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